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One of the more exciting new features of Path of Exile's upcoming Bestiary League are the revamped Ascendancy Classes. When they were initially introduced, they added a certain degree of specialization to the game and made it much more enjoyable in the process. However, not all Ascendancy Classes were created equal, with some of them rarely, if ever, being anyone's go-to when theorycrafting potential character builds. According to this Development Manifesto, the upcoming changes are aiming to fix that without nerfing the already strong classes too much. A few snippets:
Since their release in 2016, Ascendancy Classes have been a popular and powerful aspect of Path of Exile. While we have made small balance adjustments over time, it has been a long time since there was a substantial balance pass to make sure that they're all at the same power level, and to address the design of ones that have shown to be less versatile than others.
We care about a consistent power level for Ascendancy Classes. We want there to be 19 good choices, rather than people feeling like several of them are "noob traps".
We care about class identity. We want each Ascendancy Class to feel completely different from the others, so that players can connect with the identity of each class, and feel tempted to try other ones out.
When examining the classes based on these two metrics, we realised that a few of them were fine (powerful and had strong identity), but most of the others needed some serious reworking. We committed to doing this in 3.2.0, and we're ready to show you some of the results.
The Assassin was always seen as a squishy "glass cannon" critical strike character. Over time, balance adjustments dropped it out of serious consideration. These changes in 3.2.0 restore it to its initial glory, giving it some extremely strong options for assassinating enemies.
Ongoing Rebalance and Potential Nerfs
You'll probably have noticed that there aren't really any direct nerfs in the above changes. This is intentional for now, but will likely be addressed at later releases as we keep iterating on the balance. An example is the Slayer, where his leech abilities are so strong relative to regular leech in the core game. We're discussing options like improving regular leech in the future so that his leech is not so powerful in comparison.
For some of the classes we have ideas for further directions to take them that will result in larger revamps than you have seen here. This is an iterative process that will occur over several releases.
The extensive changes made in 3.2.0 will hopefully provide many strong new build opportunities for you to explore.
Remaining Class Reveals
We're aiming to reveal all 19 Ascendancy Classes by mid-next-week when the 3.2.0 Patch Notes are posted. We'll update the list in this article as they are shown.
And while we're on the topic of new Bestiary League features, you can also check out this announcement that talks about Spectral Shield Throw, the new active skill that will allow you to realize your wildest Captain America fantasies when the Bestiary League launches on March 2nd. Here's how it will work:
Alongside the release of the Bestiary League, we're introducing the long-awaited Spectral Shield Throw skill. The skill throws a spectral copy of your shield that shatters on impact, striking surrounding enemies with shrapnel. This is the first skill to use shield defences for damage.
The skill is unique in its method of dealing damage and so it has a lot of special stats to make it a flexible skill. You can focus entirely on Armour or Evasion for maximising its physical damage with the 2-3 physical damage per 15 Armour or Evasion, which is good for Tower shields, Round Shields, and Bucklers. The skill has additional critical chance from the Energy Shield of your shield, so you can increase its critical chance while also boosting damage by using high level Kite Shields or Spiked Shields. You can focus entirely on critical chance by using a Spirit Shield, and rely entirely on added damage. The skill has a large amount of Added Damage that grows as the skill gem levels, providing a decent boost that makes the skill still do damage even if your shield's armour or evasion is a little low. It's worth noting the skill doesn't benefit from Unarmed bonuses or effects that benefit weapons.
The unique nature of using a Shield for damage means you can use your main-hand weapon for its bonus properties, like the attack speed of Prismatic Eclipse or the additional chain from Ewar's Mirage.
On the subject of chaining, the skill has a number of interesting interactions with the various projectile modifiers available. Chaining causes both the shield and the shrapnel to chain, great for enemies clustered closer together when it bounces between them, but you do lose control of where the shield explodes.
Forking causes the shield to split into two shields when hitting an enemy, resulting in two shrapnel bursts. The shrapnel will also fork, letting you benefit from the forking twice!
Piercing doesn't apply to the primary projectile; This is to give the skill more reliable shattering. The pierce does apply to the secondary projectiles, making it great for ensuring the nova of shrapnel tears through every enemy in a large clustered group.
Boosting projectile speed will increase the range the shards travel, combining well with piercing to letting the shrapnel shred larger groups.
Only the secondary projectiles can be modified by additional projectiles, but the skill already has 8 additional projectiles, so additional projectile supports aren't required. Volley doesn't apply to Spectral Shield Throw.